Comprehensive Overview on AI and Ethics

Excellent comprehensive overview on AI and Ethics of Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. Highly recommended!

Chair’s Foreword

The terms of reference for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) call on us to scan for opportunities and risks arising from the use of
artificial intelligence, and to identify gaps in our national response. It is a little over a year since these terms were published. Since then, the urgency of knowing that we can safely and effectively deploy new data-driven technologies has been demonstrated in a tragic and global way by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AI Barometer provides a system-wide view of how AI and data are being used across the UK in five key sectors. It highlights where there are opportunities for greater use and where there are barriers to responsible adoption. It draws on the expertise of over one hundred participants from industry, academia, civil society and government. The research that underpins the AI Barometer predates the pandemic. But the conclusions apply now with even greater force.

The AI Barometer is a community-informed view of what we should be focusing on as a country. Within each of the sectors, risks and opportunities have been ranked, debated and analysed for underlying factors. Views differed, of course, and areas where there is less agreement can be seen in the detailed analyses presented here. But the overall conclusions paint an emerging picture of what is foremost on the minds of experts across different disciplines. As we develop the Barometer we will increase the range of sectors looked at and the numbers of people engaged to broaden and deepen our understanding.

I would encourage you to explore the wealth of detail set out in each of the five sector chapters. But there are two overarching messages that are worth highlighting here.

The first is that there are a number of ‘harder to achieve’ opportunities with enormous potential for social benefit, but which are unlikely to be realised without concerted government support and a clear national policy. These ‘harder to achieve’ opportunities include a fairer justice system; more efficient de-carbonisation; and, of course, more effective public health research and disease tracking. These opportunities have a number of common characteristics: they require coordinated action across organisations or ecosystems; they involve the use of very large-scale complex data about people; and they affect decisions that have an immediate and significant impact on people’s lives.

The second overarching conclusion is that there are a number of common barriers to achieving these ‘harder to achieve’ benefits. Some relate to the workforce – the skills and diversity of those working on these problems. Some involve our state of knowledge, about, for example, what the public will accept as ethical. Others relate to the data governance and regulatory structures we currently have in place. Concern about the quality and availability of data and its related infrastructure was a consistent theme, as was concern about the lack of clarity in how regulation applied to the use of data in particular circumstances, and a lack of transparency about how data was actually being used.

As we develop the Barometer we will increase the range of sectors looked at and the numbers of people engaged to broaden and deepen our understanding.

These issues contribute to one fundamental barrier – low levels of public trust. As we have seen in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, confidence that government, public bodies and private companies can be trusted to use data for our benefit is essential if we are to address the major risks that threaten our society, from pandemics, to global warming, to social fragmentation.

In its first year, the CDEI’s programme has focused on clarifying areas of regulatory uncertainty, with reports on online targeting and algorithmic bias (to be published shortly). As we plan our programme for the future we will be looking at how the CDEI and the country can address the full range of barriers set out in this report.

The most promising benefits will
not be realised without a coordinated national response.

AI has huge potential to address key societal challenges such as climate change, provision of health and care for an aging population, and inequality. It presents concrete opportunities through the potential for:

  • Operating an efficient green energy grid capable of managing decentralised power generation and storage
  • Identifying and tracking public health risks at speed
  • Using automated decision support systems in health, education and criminal justice in a way that reduces bias
  • Understanding the impact of automated services on vulnerable people and supporting them better.
  • Tackling misinformation while respecting freedom of speech

These most promising opportunities often share key characteristics: the use of complex data flows about individuals; a direct impact on individuals and their rights; and coordination across organisations and ecosystems – and this means realising them will involve overcoming significant common barriers.

Executive Summary

What is the AI Barometer?

The AI Barometer is an analysis of the most pressing opportunities, risks and governance challenges associated with AI and data use, initially across five key UK sectors. Over 100 experts took part in workshops and scoring exercises to produce a community-informed view of these factors. These outputs will inform the work of the CDEI and our advice to the UK government on its policy priorities. Full details are available in our methodology.

Large-scale technological change is occurring at an unprecedented pace, which the global response to COVID-19 has only accelerated.

The current age of data-driven technology is unlike anything we have seen before. Large-scale technological change is occurring at an unprecedented pace, which the global response to COVID-19 has only accelerated, with far-reaching implications across all aspects of our lives. It comes accompanied by an overwhelming volume of commentary and claims, for which the evidence – and extent of sensationalism – can often be unclear. In the face of all this, it can be difficult to discern which issues most require our attention.

The ambition of the AI Barometer is to provide a much-needed system-wide view of how AI and data is being used across the UK. Having a broad view of the landscape allows us to understand where common challenges are being experienced, and how different contexts drive how beneficial or harmful AI use might be. In a highly interconnected world, it also helps us know how technological, policy and regulatory developments in one sector may influence others.


Download & read full report:

> Ai Barometer Report – June 2020 (PDF)


All content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0